Most people who walk on the sidewalks of Philadelphia don’t know that the owner of the property abutting the sidewalk is responsible for upkeep on the sidewalk – not the City of Philadelphia. This means that if you’re hurt because of a hazardous condition in a sidewalk, you may be able to sue the owner of the adjacent building. the Reiff Law Firm explains the intricate issues involved in slip and fall accidents on sidewalks. With decades of experience handling slip and fall accident claims, our team understands that slip and fall accidents can leave a victim with serious long-term injuries and many questions as to who is legally responsible. Here, our Philadelphia slip and fall lawyers explain whom you can sue and how to hold them responsible for slip and fall injuries.
Philadelphia Sidewalk Maintenance Rules
The Philadelphia City Code § 11-505 states that property owners are responsible for grading, curbing, paving, and repairing public sidewalks. While there is no specific mention of pedestrians, there is a longstanding common law tradition of imposing liability on the property owner for accidents of pedestrians. Even if a lot is vacant, the owner of record is responsible for injuries from dangerous sidewalks along the empty lot.
If you fall in the sidewalks around City Hall, the City of Philadelphia might be responsible as the owner of that property. In this exceptional case, the City is responsible just like any other landowner. There are also instances when a dangerous condition created by the City of Philadelphia might be the City’s responsibility. In those instances, you will usually sue both the owner of the property and the city jointly. When there are multiple defendants in an injury lawsuit, the court will review the evidence and determine who is responsible, potentially sharing fault among the defendants.
In some cases, other people might be responsible for injuries. If the property owner hired a contractor to make repairs and the contractor causes your injury by failing to post signs or warnings of the dangerous sidewalk, they are going to typically be responsible for the injuries. If the property is leased or rented, the owner may be responsible for the injuries alone or jointly with a lessee who has control over the sidewalk.
Do Property Owners Have to Keep Sidewalks Safe?
Property owners have a general duty to maintain a sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of any dangers to pedestrians on their sidewalk. This duty involves preventing an unreasonable risk of harm by clearing ice and snow, repairing broken sidewalks, and putting up warning signs of bumps or large cracks that could cause people to trip and fall or slip and fall.
“Premises liability” law generally governs slip and fall cases. The level of care the landowner owes someone on their property depends on whether the person is considered a trespasser, licensee, or invitee while on the property. Property owners usually owe trespassers a duty not to intentionally harm them, they owe licensees a duty to clear up or warn of hidden dangers, and they owe invitees a higher duty to keep them safe. Under premises liability law, pedestrians on the sidewalk are considered “licensees” because the owner consents or gives permission to walk there.
Over time, courts have limited the liability of owners to block liability for injuries that just so happen to involve someone using the sidewalk. If someone happens to trip or fall down on their own, they typically cannot sue. If a sidewalk has a defect considered “obviously trivial,” such as a small crack, courts might not allow them to sue either. This is decided on a case-by-case basis. Typically, the property owner needs to fail to fix a true hazard to be liable for an injury on their sidewalk.
Whom Do I Sue When there Are Tripping Hazards in a Philadelphia Sidewalk?
A property owner typically has a duty to take adequate steps to prevent injuries on their sidewalks. For example, if there is a hole in sidewalk or tree roots that are not obvious to the naked eye, someone can trip and suffer serious injuries. The same is true for potential slip and falls from icy sidewalks, which must be cleared within 24 hours after a snowstorm.
As mentioned, if the property is owned and rented, you may be able to sue both the renter and the property owner, and if the sidewalk is outside a government building, you might be able to sue the government. In the case of injuries caused by tree roots, you may be able to sue the government and the landowner if the tree is under the custody of the City of Philadelphia or another public agency.
Generally, Pennsylvania law limits your right to sue for your injuries. In most cases, you must file your case within two years of the date of injury, so you should speak with a lawyer about filing your case quickly.
Call Our Philadelphia Slip and Fall Injury Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
The Reiff Law Firm can help if you’re unclear about who is responsible for your slip and fall accident. If you were injured in Philadelphia or the surrounding area, call our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers to schedule a free consultation at (215) 709-6940 to learn more about filing a personal injury lawsuit so that you can pursue the compensation you deserve.